West pushing anti-Russia conspiracy theories for political & economic advantage
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
Any hope that Western capitals would come to their democratic senses and demand that Theresa May provide some proof that Russia was behind an alleged assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer turned British spy, was dashed on Monday.
Sixteen EU states fell in lockstep behind the US and UK, taking the dramatic measure of banishing Russian diplomats.
Breaking: US to expel 48 Russian embassy workers in Washington, D.C. and 12 at the Russian mission to the U.N. U.S. says they were intel officers using diplo status as cover. pic.twitter.com/mRuwY8Tes6— Patrick Tucker (@DefTechPat) March 26, 2018
Meanwhile, back in the land of the free, Trump enthusiastically joined the inquisition, saying he would expel 60 Russian diplomats ‘personae non grata,’ and shut down the Seattle consulate. Encouraging to see the American leader practicing cool-headed moderation in times of uncertainty.
Short of an actual military conflict with Russia, it would be hard to imagine the situation getting any worse. Most worrisome is the peddling of pulp-fiction conspiracy theories against Russia, which compels the accusers to compensate for their wild imaginations with hysterical, inflammatory outbursts that border on sheer madness.
How else to explain the comment by UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, who spoke like a kid at the playground when he said Russia “should go away and shut up;” or that of Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, who had the audacity and historical ignorance to compare Russia's hosting of this year's World Cup to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
So, what is motivating self-satisfied Western countries, like the US and Britain, to forward such slanderous claims against Russia without a hint of legal due process? After all, it cannot be denied that Russia would have stood to gain nothing from targeting Skripal.
“[Sergei Skripal] was handed in to Britain as a result of an exchange. So, why should Russia hand in a man that is of any importance or that is of any value? It's unimaginable. If he's handed in – so Russia quits with him. He's of zero value or zero importance,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an exclusive interview with RT.
When we ask the question, ‘Cui bono’ – who stands to benefit the most from an assassination attempt on a man of absolutely no consequence to Moscow – the most credible answer always comes back to ‘Russia’s accusers.’
Follow the money
Since Washington has taken by far the severest steps against Russia over the Skripal fallout, it would be fair to ask if the US stands to gain anything from the wave of Russophobia now sweeping the West, which got its start, incidentally, as a direct result of ‘Russiagate.’
Against the backdrop of the Skripal scandal are extremely lucrative gas contracts with EU countries that Russia has dutifully fulfilled since the Soviet heydays. Today, Russia supplies about 40 percent of Europe’s gas. The US, however, with its fracking-backed liquefied natural gas (LNG) program, is anxious to get a piece of the pie.
In July, Donald Trump paid a visit to Poland, where he pledged to boost exports of LNG to Central Europe, as well as challenge Russia’s market on energy supplies.
“America stands ready to help Poland and other European nations diversify their energy supplies so that you can never be held hostage to a single supplier,” Trump told reporters after talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
The comment was odd since, even at the height of the Cold War, Europe never froze due to Moscow turning off its gas in the middle of the night.
Marek Matraszek, founder of the lobby firm CEC Government Relations, offered a very disturbing comment about Washington’s push to supply LNG to Europe.
“If we want to have the United States’ LNG supplies in Central Europe, we also want to see the United States getting tough on Nord Stream 2, which means getting tough on Russia,” Matraszek said.
I am very curious to know exactly what Matraszek had in mind when he spoke about "getting tough on Russia." Would he approve of the current bilateral breakdown between the nuclear powers? I certainly hope not.
In light of the massive prospects for gross profit on the European continent, would Western capitals not be tempted to deny Moscow the benefit of the doubt whenever highly suspicious criminal cases arise, like the present one regarding Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia?
In an effort to slander Russia and push it out of lucrative markets, they may be tempted to milk the situation for all its worth – which is exactly what is happening now. To doubt that possibility would require a deep misunderstanding of the geopolitical realities as they have played out over the course of the last decade, complete with a massive propaganda campaign aimed at everything related to Russia – from the Olympic Games to anti-terrorist operations in Syria to criminal cases in foreign lands.
Meanwhile, as the showdown between the US and Russia over EU gas supplies festers, especially in light of Nord Stream 2, the German-Russia venture that would double direct Russia gas supplies, the ongoing US sanction regime against Russia is beginning to look extemely suspect.
Commenting on Trump’s passage in August of brand new sanctions against Russia, then German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was brave enough to mention the elephant in the room.
“The draft law makes clear that they’re pursuing economic interests and we think that’s not acceptable,” he said.
“Aggressively combining foreign policy issues with American economic interests and saying: ‘We want to drive Russian gas out of the European market so we can sell American gas there is definitely not something we can accept.’”
Meanwhile, it is not only in the energy sector where the United States - and to a lesser degree the UK - stands to gain from wrecked relations with Russia, but in the defense sector as well.
The UK regularly ranks as Europe’s leading weapons exporter, behind the United States globally, which remains the world’s leading arms exporter. Much of the expenditure comes from NATO member states, which were just put on notice by Trump to keep their military spending at 2 percent of GDP, at the very same time Washington was going out of its way to portray Russia as a belligerent nation, when it has been the West that has been hell-bent on fomenting regime change around the world. Now that's certainly an interesting sales strategy.
Romanian Prime Minister @VioricaDancila said that the government decisions to purchase #HIMARS missile systems and multirole corvettes were important steps in improving the capability of the Romanian armed forces as a @NATO and EU member #defencepic.twitter.com/EEYk4Sk5MR— Radio Romania International (@RRInternational) February 15, 2018
Can this propaganda campaign against Russia work? I believe the answer is no, for many reasons. First, it is not just the Russians who understand that they are being played by major powers in a conspicuous attempt to gain geopolitical and economic advantage.
Thus far, nearly half of the EU’s member states have refrained from committing a gesture of “solidarity” with London, deciding not to expel Russian diplomats. Those ‘conscientious objectors’ are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia.
“We are determined to maintain open channels of dialogue with Russia,” Austrian government spokesperson Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal told RIA Novosti.
In many ways, this represents a victory for Russia – albeit a bittersweet one – that London failed to get so many countries on board its anti-Russia juggernaut.
This needs to be emphasized. The majority of the EU countries did not join in this mass expulsion. As for those that did, expulsions were mostly pro forma, undertaken in order to keep the British happy. Why then the wildly disproportionate response from Trump? https://t.co/4FldvIS80W— George Szamuely (@GeorgeSzamuely) March 26, 2018
Second, Russia is actively diversifying its economy away from Western markets in preparation for a worse-case scenario. For example, the “$55bn Power of Siberia pipeline will start carrying gas 3,000km to China next year. The company is also spending $13bn on a pipeline to Turkey,” the Financial Times reported.
Finally, as Russia understands that they are up against some very dishonest players, the country has made tremendous inroads to producing many of the things it once depended upon imports to have, and we are not just talking about cheese. The Russian authorities have even prepared a backup plan in the event that Russia is terminated from the SWIFT international payment system. Although, of course, Russia would prefer not to have to take such drastic steps, the unfortunate situation in many Western capitals, where otherwise intelligent people are pointing fingers and hurling unfounded accusations at Russia, without critical evidence or due process – once hallmarks of the Western judicial system – make such steps absolutely vital.
All things considered, Russia will survive this storm, as it has done so many other times in the past against far graver enemies, and stronger than ever.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.